Saturday, 24 July 2010

The Lengths We Will Go To

In 1972 a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn't commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. if you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them. Maybe you can hire.... The A Team!

The way i finally got to my scan very much reminded me of the A Team!

So I am now 20 weeks pregnant and as you all know I didn't go for my 12 weeks scan. This has been causing me huge problems which include guilt and anxiety. As each day passed it got worse and worse. I just couldn't seem to visualise the drive to the hospital at all. In each scenario in my mind I was screaming and freaking out. I tried practice drives to the hospital but I was under so much pressure and so nervous that I only ever made it half way.

I tried talking about it, relaxation methods, deep breathing, positive thinking etc but nothing as working this time. I told myself to just go for it because the past had proved that DOING the thing was much less stressful than you ever imagined it would be. One of the top midwives at the hospital was in regular contact with me and was very concerned. She even offered to come and pick me up and drive me their herself but I explained that even that was unlikely to work.

Poor Gerry was tearing his hair out with me. He got to the stage he was losing sleep with worry about how the baby would be. I myself couldn't stop thinking about it. What if there was anything wrong with the baby? I would have no idea. What if it needs help and no one knows because I cant get there. On top of that I had people constantly asking after the wee one and asking if I had been for my scan yet. Totally embarrassed I would make up some stupid story as to why it hadn't happened.

The head midwife offered me the solution that instead of having to make an appointment, they could offer me an open door policy that meant I could go anytime at all, if i suddenly felt I could make it. But that didn't work either! Eventually she told me there was no point in going for my 12 week scan. I had totally missed it anyway and there was no point going for a scan at 14 weeks only to return again at 20. And so she told me we would aim for the 20 weeks but it was important that I made it.

In my head I knew this wasn't going to happen. I was starting to dread even seeing the midwives at my local surgery because at my last appointment it was really obvious the midwife did not approve of me at all. In the end the pressure, guilt and anxiety was all so great that it just seemed utterly impossible.

Throughout the whole time I kept moaning saying 'I wish i could just go in an ambulance'. This was because of last year. Remember when I was taken to hospital in the middle of the night via ambulance. It was something that as an agoraphobic, I always worried about happening. But when it DID happen I coped really well. In the back of an ambulance with a fantastic paramedic, I was completely calm. I figured this was down to the fact I couldn't see where I was. Bizarre though because I know the roads so well I KNEW exactly where I was, but not being able to see everything whizzing past made it easier. I find that when I am anxious and hypersensitive, your surroundings can seem to overwhelming. There is too much going on around you and its harder to gather your thoughts and get yourself calm. And so knowing that I couldn't just ring an ambulance since i wasn't in any pain, i worked out another solution.

How about I go in the back of a van!

Gerry who was desperate to get me there, thought this a tad extreme but agreed that if it got me there, he would get us a van. It was planned that he would borrow his dads work van on Thursday and we would attempt the journey. I have to admit but even then I didn't think it would work. But Thursday was a week away so i had bought myself some time.

On Wednesday night Gerry was texting saying he was really excited about the next day and how we would finally see the little one. I told him not to get his hopes up because deep down I didn't believe I would get there, however, i did tell myself I would at least have to TRY it.

Thursday morning came far to quickly and I woke up to find Gerry in my bedroom. He didn't look too pleased at all! Bad News. He explained he had been to collect the van but when he was trying to get in the back to unload some stuff, he had snapped the key in the door! 'Yes'!!! I thought. I don't need to try this now. Gerry on the other hand had had enough. Seriously annoyed about the van car he told me enough was enough. I had to get in the car and just do it. It was far too important to miss. 'Get in the back seat and put a cover over your head', 'If i need to drag you I will'. Well if there is one thing you shouldn't say to an agoraphobic its that! Maybe just maybe, if Gerry had been calm and soothing, he might have talked me round. But standing there shouting and losing his cool he had blown it completely. Absolutely NO WAY was I going near his car. He stormed out of my house screaming all sorts of abuse but I just sat there because at the end of the day, I knew he was right and I was the one in the wrong here. Poor guy just couldn't handle it anymore. I did feel awful, this was all my own doing. My phobia, my issues. But i tried to explain that it was hardly ideal for me too. I never feel sorry for myself and the life agoraphobia has caused me to lead. But for once I did. Do you think i wanted this? Do you think I don't want this scan. Why cant I be normal and enjoy my pregnancy and get excited about these appointments. Its not fair!!

Friday was Gerry's last free day before he started working constant 12 hour shifts. He was gutted that he was going to miss the scan, and although i told him that wouldn't happen, it was looking pretty likely. I woke up on Friday morning with Gerry standing beside my bed again, this time with a big smile on his face 'I got a new Van key, the vans outside'

'Oh s**t' I thought. Ok so he has the van, randomly after weeks of rain the sun was shining and this is his last day off... I need to try this!

He took me out to show me the van and where I would be sitting. Oh my i should have taken a picture. I would be huddled into this van sitting on top of piles of metal pipes. DIRTY metal pipes. Well beggars cant be choosers so I went back indoors and got myself ready. How can you prepare for a journey like this? I decided to take magazines (for distraction), My ipod for music to distract me and also the panic application that helps you control your breathing. Baby wipes for when I get hot and start sweating. A bottle of water for when I need a cool drink. And finally my notebook which has all the helpful phrases I need during panic, for example, 'this will pass', 'breathe', 'Don't let the panic win'. And before leaving the house Gerry was given strict instructions.

  1. Should i want to stop the drive and turn around you MUST do it.
  2. If you continue to drive with me after I have asked you to stop I will freak out and who knows what that will do to me and the baby.
  3. If you ignore me I will call the police and tell them I have been kidnapped and I'm in the back of a transit van (this was all said in jest but i think i would have done it had i felt the need)
  4. Do not shout at me or lose your cool as it WILL NOT HELP
  5. If you don't do what i need you to do you will be blowing it completely and the chances are I will never get in a car with you again.

Got myself seated in the van and immediately phoned a friend as Gerry began to drive. It was another distraction method, which usually works for me, but this time it meant I wasn't able to compose my thoughts and it actually just made me more nervous. Oh no I wasn't enjoying this at all! The panic came which was inevitable really after all my over thinking. Grabbed my ipod, with shaking hands I stuck some music on and turned it up LOUD! I realised pretty quickly this wasn't a great idea. Ok i couldn't see round about me, but i didn't like it either. I felt like mentally I needed to know exactly where I was and to deal with each step of the journey. I cant really explain it to be honest. Thankfully I could see into the front of the van and out of the window a little so I kept having a little check now and then. Much to my disappointment, every time I looked out I wasn't as close to the hospital as I had hoped. In my whole experience with panic attacks I have never felt so exposed, so vulnerable and so unsafe. I was aware that I was out of my safety zone, that the journey BACK to my safety zone was going to take a while and every time i thought of this I felt the panic rise. Looking back on it now I realise that even though I was extremely uncomfortable, turning back never entered my head. I knew i was getting that scan done and it was as simple as that. I will say though that the panic never got to that unbearable stage where you just lose it, so maybe had it got that bad, i would have told him to stop but thankfully that never happened.

We made it, we were at the hospital. And what happened then? Same thing that always happens, I went completely calm!

The scan department was on the 3rd floor of the hospital and since I don't do lifts I headed for the stairs. I introduced myself at the desk to some praise for finally making it. Someone was in being scanned before me so i was going to have to wait. But even then I was calm and we all know how much I hate waiting. I walked around alone looking where everything was, the anti natal classes, the birthing suite etc and finally they were ready for me.

Then the maternal nerves took over. As i lay on the bed I couldn't look at the scan monitor. I guess due to my miscarriage last year I as too frightened in case i seen something was wrong. The doctor told me to look at the screen to see my baby but i couldn't look until I knew there was a heartbeat. Within minutes I was told I could look and there it was. My little baby kicking and wriggling inside of me. The images were so clear I couldn't believe it. The little face looked perfect. I just lay there smiling from ear to ear and enjoying every second. The doctor took measurements and I began to worry thinking that something was wrong. But he explained he was checking the baby and this is what they do with everyone. He was so thorough and the whole thing lasted over half an hour. Being as impatient as I am, I asked the babies sex. I am totally delighted with the outcome but I am keeping that a secret until the wee one arrives. To be told that everything was ok was just the most wonderful news ever. In a way I felt so lucky but also that I didn't deserve it! I had been so useless and yet I was totally blessed. I got the scan pictures printed out and was free to go but i ended up chatting and getting bloods taken and weighed etc as for some reason the midwives had never weighed me. (The bloods are to test for down syndrome)

I left the hospital clinging to the scan pictures and headed for the van. I was fine now. I had done it. And I didn't feel like travelling in the back of the van A Team style. I joined Gerry up the front. I chatted to him and wasn't even bothered about where we were and how far from home I was. I realised it was lunchtime and suggested we go have something to eat together, which we did. It was so normal and so good! While at lunch I suggested we go have a look in some shops but Gerry had to be somewhere.

I got home and my mother was white as a sheet, she had obviously been worried sick as we were gone much longer than she thought we would be. I handed her the pictures and her eyes filled with tears. Weeks of worrying about getting me to that scan were gone. The relief on her face was completely obvious and I let her enjoy her moment.

It is horrible to be the cause of so much worry in other people. My agoraphobia had pretty much disappeared for so long, but my constant over thinking and stressing caused it to return when it was most important. I have over come a lot of the problems that agoraphobia caused in my lofe, but this is by far the proudest I have ever been of myself. I am gutted I took so long, and disappointed for allowing myself to believe the bad things my head tells me when I know better. But in one day I killed some demons for sure. I got my buzz back and I want to get out there and do so much more. And now I can enjoy the rest of my pregnancy with no pressure, and when people ask if i have been for my scan I can stop lying and say Yes!!!

Friday, 23 July 2010

Scan Success!!!

20 week scan done and dusted!!! I will elaborate later but I am so happy I DONE IT AND BABY IS FINE!!!! (plus i know the sex)

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Back on the Bus

As you may or may not know, my agoraphobia caused me to housebound and stop going out at all. Obviously this meant everything else stopped, but first to stop was travelling.

I used to use buses or taxis to get everywhere before I could actually drive myself. I had a few major panic attacks on buses which had pretty much left me scarred and not in a hurry to get back on one again.

Meeting with my new support worker she acknowledged that I could drive but felt it was important that I could still travel by bus too. What would happen if one day my car didn't work, or if it was in the garage? My life couldn't just stop until the car was back in action, I should be able to use public transport and keep up my independent living.

At first I thought it was a bit of a waste of time. I would make more progress quicker if I could concentrate on driving in the car, but Margaret, the support worker, explained that If i felt comfortable travelling to places by bus, then it would be really easy to do it by car. So i understood her logic.

I probably put it off for a while, while I waited for my bus pass to arrive. Really I could just have gone anyway and paid the fare but anything to put things off eh. However, the bus pass arrived about 4 weeks ago and it was time to face up to the challenge.

I suppose to most people this doesn't seem like a big deal, and I guess it isn't really, but I hadn't been on a bus for probably about 9 years?

The first trip was actually quite funny. How was I to know that bus 'etiquette' had changed?? I seen people with bus passes before and they would walk on the bus, flash their pass and take a seat, so that's what i did. I was lucky this day as I arrived at the bus stop when a bus was pulling up so I didn't have to wait around. Waiting for anything doesn't seem to sit well with me. And So along with my support worker I got on the bus, flashed my pass and sat down. I was called back quickly by a puzzled looking bus driver who explained I didn't have a ticket. Apparently you need to sit your pass on this little ticket box, it registers your card as if by magic, and then gives you a ticket. Margaret had a little giggle, i just felt like a total dunce! But I got my ticket and took a seat.

Immediately the same thoughts that i always had on buses came back to mind. The most crazy thought being 'this bus driver is on a suicide mission and is just gonna crash' and to be honest the guys driving wasn't really doing anything to put that thought to rest. Also i was on one of the 'bendy buses'. I have never been on one of these before so this made it even more strange. I hear they are trying to ban them in London but I'm not sure if they are going to do the same thing here, whatever, i didn't walk beyond the bend because the back of the bus looked like it had a life of its own.

We only rode a few stops for my first time and although the bus driver was a total misery (aren't they all) I actually enjoyed it. I probably found it as thrilling as any 'normal' person would find a trip on a roller coaster. Within minutes it was over and I was quite happy with myself. But Margaret wanted to know how i would push it further the next time I met her. So it was decided that I would go to a bus stop further away and that even if a bus pulled up, i would ignore it and wait for the next one.

It was a nice day when we set off but i was definitely a little more nervous knowing i could be standing waiting for a while, and while waiting on anything my mind can have too much time to think. But really it wasn't too bad at all and my anxiety levels were pretty minimal. The bus journey itself was also fine, thoughts not too bad since this driver didn't seem to have a death wish. I do seem to panic when the bus is making turns though, thinking that hes going to go a different route, which is certainly not part of my plan. I guess its about handing control over to someone else, and obviously on a bus your handing the control to a complete stranger. Margaret joined me on the trip again.

So how could we push it further again next time? Well I guess I would have to do the bus trip myself. I wasn't bothered at all to be honest. The only thing I don't like is the waiting but it couldn't have been to bad cause i don't actually remember it. I got the bus no problem and was shocked to find I had a pleasant bus driver!!! I took my seat but he shouted back a little conversation with me and I laughed at his small talk. I still didn't travel very far, and the bus drivers could think I am just extremely lazy, but since I'm pregnant and sporting a fetching bump, its a good cover and seems to make my small trips acceptable.

I thought i should update you with something a little more progress related and not just baby stuff. I do get really frustrated with myself because I always make comparisons to how I was last year. And back then I as definitely travelling further and had more confidence. But going out was so new to me then that i was always buzzing with every little thing I did, every little walk or trip to the shops. Once that becomes the norm, you don't get that high anymore. But I wouldn't change it for the world and am grateful to be where I am now. You just need to keep on going, keep on trying. I think you really only get that buzz when you try something that is pushing your limits, but we all know how hard that is and that's where I am struggling at the moment. But hopefully over the coming weeks that's going to change and Ill have lots to been buzzing about.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Agoraphobic Pregnancy

I am hanging my head in shame. Its been a month since my last confession... I mean blog.

Ok so where do i begin? I am now... drum roll please... drrrrrrrr... 17 weeks pregnant!

I have been very lucky in that i had very mild sickness which didn't last very long and my only major problem has been feeling completely exhausted but hey I can live with that. My tummy is growing rapidly now and it is no longer just looking like Ive eaten too many pies. I now have a proper baby bump and have even had people come up and touch it already.

Only a couple of days ago I felt the baby move for the first time. It was just how everyone described it would be, like a little flutter. Accept it was a very strong flutter and went on for a good 5 minutes. The picture above is exactly how a baby looks at 17 weeks. Very impressive how developed it is already and to be honest the time is flying by. I'm sure it will drag towards the end when I am the size of a small country but so far Ive had it easy

So that's the basics. But mentally it has been much more complicated.

My 12 weeks scan was mentioned in my last post. I prayed I would make it there and I focused on it for weeks. But I focused on it too much and turned it into mount Everest. I couldn't go. And on the day that I missed it I had a complete breakdown of guilt. Already I thought I was a terrible mother. Why couldn't I do this for my baby as that's what matters here. Not me! How could I be so selfish. I called the hospital and thankfully they were really understanding and told me they would look into scanning me in my local health centre. What a relief! I waited weeks to hear from them and i was growing more and more concerned knowing I was well over the 12 weeks by then. Finally at 15 weeks they called me and told me that I will STILL have to go to the hospital as originally planned but that I can go anytime I want instead of having to make an appointment. When I first found out I was really upset as I was looking forward to my scan being local and it being 'doable' so i was a little shocked to discover that it took them 3 weeks to do nothing really.

As it stands i am now 17 weeks gone and still haven't had my ultrasound. I feel so guilty about it. I have piled the pressure on myself but then I also have everyone else desperately wanting me to go so I have the pressure from them too. The midwife has told me they only want me there for my 20 week scan so basically I have another 3 weeks to get there. In a way I feel less pressure knowing i have time to buildup to it, but that is another 3 weeks that I can obsess and get myself worked up about it. Oh i have tried everything, think of the baby, think of getting a picture to show everyone, think about finding out the sex of the baby. I try turning the experience into an exciting fun thing and not a stressful scary one, but it is hard as you know. So now I am basically making the journey bit by bit each day and just building on it. Hopefully one day Ill just do it.

I do feel very embarrassed and that probably why I haven't written before now. Also I worry about what people with think of me and that I will be judged. I am mortified when people ask me how my scans have gone, I just mutter something and change the subject quickly.

I should mention that I have been to every other appointment, had all my bloods taken, been thoroughly checked over. I did have a little scare one week and needed to see the midwife but she had a listen to babies heart and a feel of my tummy and told me everything seems 'perfect'. I have never felt so much relief.

What amazes me though is that the hospital, as much as they are being helpful, they seem to never have had any experience with someone with agoraphobia before. At least if they have they have never told me about it. They seem a little confused as to what to do with me. And that only adds to me feeling weird and crap. Am I really the only weak person who couldn't just bite the bullet and get to a hospital for the sake of their baby. Did everyone else just suck it up and do it? Pffft who knows. So far it looks like it. And then my frustration grows even more when i am reminded that last year I was up and down to the hospital for appointments all the time, and never missed a single one. I know that the experience WAS Stressful last year and that maybe the memory of that has added to my anxiety this year but still.. i could do it then so why not now? That's actually a rhetorical question because i know the answer to that already. Anxiety sucks. it comes and goes. Sometimes we are good, sometimes we struggle, and do to all my worries and stressing my problems are flaring up, just to remind me they can. Such is life.

Regardless of this I am actually coping really well. Although I do understand pregnancy hormones can have you all over the place which is just fabulous! One minute I am stroking my tummy feeling like the luckiest girl in the world. I am blessed with this wonderful little baby inside of me and Life is beautiful. I am going to be an amazing mother and this baby is going to be so so loved. It is also very lucky as its becoming part of a wonderful family and we are all excited to meet him or her. But then ill wake up the next day and see my bump and ill feel fear. Arrrgh i have no control. My body is not mine now. And this baby, what if it hates me. Can I really do this? What if i cant cope? What if I'm a crap mum?. But i remind myself that this is natural and everyone must go through this with their first pregnancy. The fear of the unknown...and we all understand that perfectly by now. I am just totally neurotic to be honest. I still have the same worries I had at the start, scared that a huge bump will freak me out, that Elbows and legs popping out of my tummy will send me into a panic, but i try to breathe and tell myself I will be fine.

On top of this I am STILL house hunting and praying something turns up soon, and of course I am buying baby items now. My car breaks are giving up on me so that needs fixed this week and I think my laptop is about to have a breakdown. Jeez my blog used to give me stress relief but as I type i feel myself getting worked up haha I hope you guys aren't getting stressed just reading my crazy rant.

Now maybe some of you will even ask the question, how are you going to cope when the baby arrives. And would you believe that that part doesn't actually scare me! I have had children around me for years and know I can provide a great life for this wee one. And more love than I ever thought possible. The bond is already there and that is something I am grateful for. I look forward to getting baby into its pram and going for long walks with other girls who are having babies at the same time as me. Taking the baby to visit relatives and for walks in the park. Going for drives and showing him or her the beach, going to the zoo. This all feel completely easy. So basically my only issue is actually MAKING the baby. Making sure its ok. Developing properly. Because I cant see that right now. At least when its born its there in front of my eyes and i can constantly check its ok. Poor wee thing wont get peace with me watching it.

Ok I've exhausted myself now. Sorry to the men if I have bored you with this, if you have read this far then I am impressed. To the girls I hope you know where I am coming from and have maybe even had some of these issues. I'm not the only one surely lol. I hopefully wont take so long in posting something again and will remember not to avoid writing out of embarrassment. I hope you are all well and enjoying life wherever you are. xx